In Which I Become a Smuggler
Link to Part One
I had an amazing life-changing experience in Colombia, living in Medellin for six weeks and taking a Spanish course full-time in the day. I grew in so many ways. But not enough, apparently.
I was one of eight people taking this course. I was sixteen, John was seventeen, and almost everyone else was in their sixties. Each of us was housed in Medellin with a local family. We took the bus downtown to the class for eight hours a day.
During our stay, our host and teacher invited us to visit his coffee farm in a tiny town near Bogota. We all flew to Bogota for a day and spent two nights at the farm. While we were in Bogota, we visited the jewel district.
Bogota is called the Emerald Capital of the World. John, my fellow teen, had done his homework; he wanted to buy some unmounted emeralds for his mother while he was there. The merchants sold the emeralds from the sidewalk, holding out their open hands with cut stones shimmering on a square of black velvet. John bought three emeralds.
I thought nothing more about it until it was time for all of us to return to the United States. We gathered at our appointed spot at the airport to wait for departure. (I was dressed for the flight in—of course—a dress and pantyhose. My underwear was safely ensconsed underneath. I was no fool.)
John took me aside and pulled a folded and taped baggie from his pocket.
“I was hoping you’d do me a favor.”
“I don’t want to pay duty on these emeralds. They’re valued in the U.S. at five times what I paid for them here. The taxes would amount to almost what I paid for them. Would you stuff this in your bra and sneak them through customs?”
Wait a minute. This was illegal. This was cheating our government of money that was rightfully due them. It could be dangerous.
“Are you sure?”
“Why not? Give them to me.”
John was a planner. “Here’s a safety pin to pin it inside your bra. You can use the bathroom.”
I pinned the baggie just under my strap in the front of my bra. It was inconspicuous and easy to do. Now it was time to enjoy the flight home.
Next: Miami Airport, Part Three: Home Sweet Home